This week’s guest blog is about video game film adaptations by Christopher Aguiar.
You can check his previous blog here: The Fear of Subtitles.
Will Video Game Films Ever Surpass Superhero Movies? by Christopher Aguiar
Ever since comic book and superhero movies became near-guaranteed box office monsters, other attempts throughout the film industry have been made to tackle this emergence — reboots of famous franchises that play on nostalgia (Jurassic Park, Terminator, Die Hard, etc.) being one of the main forces. Yet there is one sector that struggles to get its feet off the ground, and has yet to create a widely accepted great film: the video game scene.
We’ve sat through the idiocies of Resident Evil, the mindless and inconsequential action of every single Hitman film, as well as the exposition-heavy Silent Hill, so it’s understandable when game-to-film transitions are met with a groan. But the saddening thing is that these franchises are utilised to garner easy money from hardcore fans of the games — those who, whether they love or hate it, will pay to watch. Therefore, it’s difficult to convince studios to get on board with releasing a story-heavy film that challenges the audience — even though that is what they necessitate.
Hitman is a video game series that is almost episodic, has no conclusion, and rarely focuses on its story — the beauty of the game is its stealth, and this stems from interactivity. So why did it get adapted to the big screen? If anything, the episodic structure should mean it naturally besets itself in the TV realm.
It is regular to see, or hear, misconceptions about how video games are just mindless fun and lack story depth. Yet one glance into what has been produced in the last decade alone tells you otherwise. The storylines are far more intricate than they’ve ever been, and game developers are no longer just creating immersive worlds with cardboard cutouts; they’re now populating these vast landscapes with fully formed characters. This added realism challenges the gamer in a far more interesting way than eating dots with Pac-Man. Video games have evolved into the beating heart of new-generation storytelling. So why should they be omitted from the big screen — or, rather, why do studios opt for the decrepit toy over the shiny one?
Recently, Michael Fassbender was cast in the upcoming Assassin’s Creed film as Callum Lynch (a character created solely for the big screen). This could be the catalyst for video game adaptations to finally hit that high note. As a game franchise, Assassin’s Creed often does a great job of embroiling drama and action within a historical time period (Italian Renaissance, The Third Crusade, The American Revolution, etc.), and this means that the film is forced to adhere to the same structure — thus, the first Assassin’s Creed film will be set in 15th century Spain.
Having an Oscar nominee spearheading the project is a huge indicator that the film’s material is strong. Perhaps the most positive aspect is that Assassin’s Creed rarely stays within one confined genre; it dabbles in action, drama, sci-fi, and the stealthy gameplay often gives it elements of a thriller. Ultimately, this forces the studio to study the source material heavily and deliver a strong and coherent story above everything else.
Furthermore, director Justin Kurzel’s rendition of Macbeth, with the aforementioned actor, shows he’s no stranger to adaptations. There is a lot to be positive about with this upcoming film, and if it succeeds in becoming the first great video game film, then we can expect to see an influx of excellent and diverse stories catapult above the mundane and repetitive.
With the hype of The Walking Dead still knocking around, there have been various attempts at an “emotional” zombie-infestation film. Maggie was the recent trial, but it paraded poor writing and too much ham acting to really hit a tone with the majority of people. One video game that perfectly encapsulated heartfelt, zombie-apocalypse drama was The Last of Us.
The film version is still in its casting process, and it recently picked up Game of Thrones starlet Maisie Williams to play the role of Ellie: a teenage girl immune to the infection, who sparks up a faux paternal relationship with Joel — a man grieving the death of his daughter. Despite feeling like a burden toward one another, the two become caring, and, what sets out to be a journey from Point A to B (using Ellie to find a cure to the world’s infection), ends up being one that teeters in the middle as Joel becomes protective over her safety. It’s a truly heartbreaking game with phenomenal world creation, character development, and a satisfying ending. This is a perfect project to stand out as a top tier video game adaptation, as well as an interesting zombie flick. The game garnered huge financial success and reaped in countless awards — there is little risk attached to studios going all out in launching this film to the very best of their abilities.
And even though the films above sound like they could be great, why have their predecessors been so unimpressive to say the least? Well, there is an obsession with money over quality in the upper echelons of the film industry, and unfortunately, video game adaptations tend to be helmed by said echelons due to their high budget demand in bringing their world to life. Secondly, most video game adaptations tend to be released during the summer Blockbuster period, which forces them to mindlessly entertain rather than challenge audiences. This is counterproductive because it forces studios to opt for the turgid and one-dimensional video games. Luckily, Assassin’s Creed seems set to break the mould with a December 2016 release. The issues that constantly appear in these adaptations could be eradicated once one film defies all the odds and succeeds.
The superhero franchise was often toyed around with, but never reached the consistent heights that Marvel and DC are currently producing. There were abominations like Batman & Robin that almost killed an entire franchise. And while there were some hits here and there, it was only until Batman Begins (2005) and Iron Man (2008) that superhero films became a respectable sector of film. All it takes is one big hit for a snowball effect to kick in. Since the first Iron Man — which was fantastic — we have had superior films such as Avengers: Assemble, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and so on. Now, almost every superhero film is a grand hard-hitter with its budget and subsequent box office return.
Video game adaptations will be the next in line, and far less one-dimensional than the usual “oh, look, it’s a superhero saving the world again!” scenario.
Chris Aguiar is an amateur screenwriter (still learning the ropes) and incredibly passionate about film and TV. He identifies with Latin-American cinema and ranks The Matrix as his all-time favourite film (he is prepared to fight anybody — dead or alive — that questions this).
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